Former Town of Clayton Clerk Dayna Hooverson changed her plea on a theft charge to no contest last Friday in Crawford County Circuit Court.
Hooverson faced the felony charge of theft of more than $10,000 in a business setting for allegedly embezzling money from Clayton Township, while serving as the town clerk from 2007 to 2013.
As part of a negotiated plea agreement, Crawford County District Attorney Tim Baxter agreed to not pursue prosecution of five counts of state tax evasion. The tax evasion charges will ‘read-in’ to the record and may be considered at sentencing, according to Crawford County Circuit Court Judge James Czajkowski.
The felony theft charge allows for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $25,000 or both. A sentencing hearing was set for Friday, June 3 at 10:30 a.m.
Judge Czajkowski ordered a pre-sentence investigation be conducted and informed Hooverson that her attorney, Adrian Longacre, would be provided with a copy of that report in time to review it with her.
For her part, Hooverson seemed visibly shaken by the direction of the trial. Her mood Friday and at brief appearance Wednesday morning seemed markedly different than previous appearances, where she often appeared unconcerned. Last week, Hooverson sat at the defense table in a heavy coat with a scarf around her neck. She leaned forward looking down and occasionally straightened just enough to look straight ahead.
At one point, the bailiff stepped forward with a box of tissues for Hooverson, who was crying as she sat at the table.
Hooverson answered almost every question from the judge one-word answers.
For his part, Czajkowski took time to make sure Hooverson understood the proceedings. He informed her of her constitutional right including the right to a trial and to call witnesses.
The judge reviewed the no contest plea and asked if she understood it. When Czajkowski was satisfied Hooverson understood the charge and implication of the plea, he asked if anyone had forced or threatened her to make such a plea and he asked if she had been promised anything in return for changing her plea. Hooverson said she had not.
Czajkowski reviewed the facts as presented in the criminal complaint. He noted that between January 1, 2007 and October 31, 2013 Hooverson had possessed money belonging to another person because of her employment. He noted the other person in this case was the entity known as the Town of Clayton in Crawford County, Wisconsin.
The judge went on to state that Hooverson had used the money without the consent of the owner. And, she knew use of the money was without the owner’s consent and that she converted it to her own use or that of another.
“Do you understand the elements of the offense?” Czajkowski asked.
“Yep,” Hooverson said quietly in response. She stared straight ahead and closed her eyes briefly.
“Do you have any questions?” the judge asked.
“No,” Hooverson answered.
“Are you now ready to change your plea to no contest?” Czajkowski asked.
“Yes,” Hooverson replied.
“What is your plea?” the judge asked.
“No contest,” Hooverson said quietly after what appeared to be some prompting from her attorney.
Czajkowski went on to ask Hooverson if she had read the probable cause portion of the criminal complaint and if the facts contained there were correct. Hooverson replied affirmatively that she had both read the criminal complaint and that the facts were correct.
Judge Czajkowski then accepted the no contest plea and stated the defendant was “adjudicated as guilty.”
In discussing the pre-sentence investigation, DA Tim Baxter told the judge that the prosecution may call witnesses and asked that an hour be set aside for the sentencing hearing. For his part, defense attorney Adrian Longacre agreed an hour would be sufficient.
Judge Czajkowski informed Hooverson when the pre-sentence investigation was completed, a copy of the report would be provided to her attorney and she would be afforded an opportunity to review it with him.
Czajkowski concluded the hearing by scheduling the sentencing hearing for Friday, June 3 at 10:30 a.m. and noting the signature bond would be continued.